With the start of Passover just days away, we’ve got a few things on our mind: matzo (and all the great ways to use matzo for dessert), last minute Seder preparations and, of course, brisket. This fatty cut of meat, which comes from the cow’s breast area, beneath its first five ribs, is the ultimate centerpiece for your Seder table.
But what does an ideal cut of beef brisket look like? And what should you ask for at your local butcher’s counter? To make sure you order the best cut for your table, we turned to Brent Young, co-owner and butcher at NYC’s The Meat Hook. Here are his top three tips for buying brisket.
1. Know the cut you want.
Beef brisket comes in two cuts separated by a layer of fat. The first cut, also called the flat cut, is one muscle and is sliced with little fat—which often means it’s more expensive. The second cut, or the point cut, is sliced with deckle, or the fat, and is therefore more flavorful. “My personal preference is the point cut because it has more fat and its texture is more like a chuck roast,” Young says. “But many, many people grew up eating the flat cut. So if you’re not sure, go with the flat cut. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re getting ripped off [because of too much fat].”
2. Buy the right size.
As we mentioned, brisket is usually cut as small as two pounds and as large as 14 pounds. But chances are, even for a large dinner gathering, you don’t need that big of a piece of brisket, Young says. “A 14-pound brisket would feed 25 to 30 people,” he warns, so don’t let yourself get talked into buying more than you need. A general rule with brisket is to buy a half pound for every person you’ll feed, leaving room for leftovers.
3. Don’t worry about the marbling.
Unlike a steak, where signs of marbling mean a more flavorful piece of meat, brisket doesn’t show much marbling—and that’s okay, Young says. Because of the way it’s cut, fat is often in a single layer on the meat, and more so, of course, on the point cut. “There will be some marbling on the inside of the muscle, but you’re not looking for that as much as you are a deep, rich red color and ‘clean-looking’ fat,” he says.
As a general rule, you’ll pay a premium price to buy brisket at your local butcher’s shop, but one benefit is that you can ask questions and they will have the answers. “Butchers should know where their meat comes from and be able to tell you exactly what you’re buying,” says Young. “You are paying more to be there, so don’t be shy about asking questions.”
Once you’ve ordered the right cut, here are three great recipes to put your brisket to good use.
Keep things traditional with this oven-baked sweet-and-sour onion brisket.
If you’re looking for something with a hint of sweetness, try this brisket with apricots and prunes.
Or, think outside the (matzo) box with these braised brisket tacos with matzo tortillas.
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